Sunday, June 30, 2019

10th Year in Czechland Party

Tomorrow is officially my 10th anniversary here but yesterday was the Decade in Czechland fiesta / early birthday party.  There were over 50 people and it was a lot of fun with people coming from Prague, Berlin, Bratislava and the Canary Islands for the festivities.

The biggest challenge was finding a suitable venue for the number of people, reachable via public transportation, and somewhat kid friendly.  It took a while to find the right place because most places are booked out for weddings.  Fortunately, one of my mates recommended Žebětínský dvůr.



It turned out to be the perfect place.  Plus they have hotel rooms for the people who travelled.  The hotel took care of the catering and there was so much great food.  The room was adjacent to a patio so people got to hang outside and there was even a pool which the kids enjoyed given that it has been so hot lately.

I got both the English and Czech Happy Birthday songs.  It was interesting to hear people sing out all three versions of my name - Christopher (my preferred name). CJ (my preferred short name), and Chris (the short name my family and closest friends use).

Now that I've been here a decade I'm officially "Czech Lite."  I guess until I hopefully get Czech citizenship next year.  I came to Brno with the intention of being here for only two, maybe three, years and then I was supposed to go back to Atlanta.  Instead tomorrow will be my official ten years in Czech Republic and it's been seven years since I even visited the ATL.

I told everyone "no gifts" but people don't listen.  It looks like I'll be making some trips to Prague because I received tickets to a couple of different performances at the National Theatre.  I have to say though I absolutely love the Czech hockey jersey with the captain's C on the chest and my name on the back.

Now that I'm almost Czech, maybe even Moravian, it was decided that I need to be like all Czechs and have a bicycle.  I was absolutely gobsmacked when it was rolled out.  I'm completely humbled to have such good friends in my life.

Friday, June 28, 2019

50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.  Stonewall is considered the birth of the Gay Rights Movement.  So here's what happened...

Back in the 1950s and 1960s things weren't good for gay people.  They aren't always great now but they were particularly bad back then.  Being gay was considered a mental illness, you could be fired from your job or evicted from your apartment just for being gay.  Due to morality laws it was illegal for gay people to meet up in public, it was even illegal to serve alcohol to a known homosexual.  If you were arrested for being gay, your name and photograph would often be in the paper the next morning which is how employers and landlords knew who to fire or evict.

The Stonewall Inn was a gay bar in Greenwich Village, New York City.  On 28 June 1969, the police came and did a routine raid to arrest the patrons.  This time though the people fought back.  There were more protests over the next several days.  The Gay Rights Movement began.

On the one year anniversary of the Stonewall Riot, the first gay pride march took place in New York.  In 1970, marches took place in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  In 1971, marches also were held in Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, London, Paris, West Berlin, and Stockholm.  1972 saw the first marches in Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C., Miami, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia.  Today, Pride parades are held worldwide.

In 2016, the bar was declared a national monument.  Just a few weeks ago the New York City Police Commissioner issued a formal apology for the actions of the police officers at Stonewall in 1969.

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube about the riots.

©History

What's insane to me is that there are still U.S. states where it is still perfectly legal to fire someone or evict them for being gay.  Only 24 states, plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam have state laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.  About 150 cities and counties have also enacted bans on discrimination.  Gay marriage is legal in the USA but in 26 states it would be absolutely legal to fire someone because he or she got married.


The Equality Act would make discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity illegal nationwide.  But it's had a tough time getting through Congress.  And the Trump Administration has rolled back many most of the few protections that were previously put in place by President Obama.

This year I've got three Pride events on my calendar.  Two weeks ago was EuroPride in Vienna, then in three weeks in Bratislava Pride and Prague Pride is in August.  I expect to be "prided" out by the end of the summer.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Possible New Public Holiday

The Czech and Slovak governments are mad at Russia.  So much so that we may get a new public holiday in Czechland.
Here's what's going on...

On 23 May, Russian state television aired a "documentary" called "The Warsaw Pact - Declassified Pages".  The programme asserted that the Warsaw Pact  invasion of Czechoslovakia to put down the Prague Spring was actually a preemptive move to protect Czechoslovakia from a NATO-backed coup.

About 137 people were killed during the invasion with another 500 seriously wounded.  Immediately after the invasion some 70.000 people emigrated with another 300.000 people leaving by 1989.

So according to Russian state television the invasion of Czechoslovakia and removal of its leader was actually done to protect the country from NATO?  Really!??  This definitely sounds like some "alternative facts."  It also seems quite unlikely given that, in December 1989, the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland all apologised to Czechoslovakia for the invasion.

There's also a 1993 Czech-Russian treaty that condemns "the unacceptable use of force in 1968" and the "unjustifiable persistence of Soviet troops on Czechoslovak territory."

©France24

In addition, the Russian government has proposed an amendment to its veterans' law that also states that the invasion of Czechoslovakia was intended to stop a pending coup and to stabilise the country.

In response both Czechland and Slovakia have complained to Russia for seriously distorting historical facts.

The Chamber of Deputies, the Czech lower house of parliament, is supporting a new public holiday.  So far about 90 of the 200 members of parliament support designating 21 August as "Remembrance Day of the Victims of the Invasion and Subsequent Occupation by Warsaw Pact Troops."  A bit of a long name but I'd be good with having a new public holiday. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Warsaw Pact

The Warsaw Pact was the communist version of NATO.
Officially it was the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance.

In 1955, West Germany joined NATO so a military alliance was established to counter it.


Like NATO, one of the main principles was that an attack on one country was an attack on all members of the alliance.  The Warsaw Pact countries were the Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Czechoslovakia.

When I grew up the Cold War was NATO vs the Warsaw Pact.

Ironically, its largest military engagement wasn't against NATO but "Operation Danube" which was the invasion of Czechoslovakia that put down the Prague Spring.
Romania and Albania didn't participate in the invasion.  Shortly afterwards, Albania left the alliance.

At the last minute it was decided that East Germany would not invade because it was the 30th anniversary of Germany annexing the Sudetenland.  

Here's a video I found out on YouTube called "March of the Warsaw Pact".  The lyrics are in Russian but there are English subtitles.  It's basically the alliance's anthem but I find it interesting that the East Germans aren't mentioned.

©YugoslavianHeros 1943

The Warsaw Pact became less relevant following the fall of communism in 1989 and the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.  Except that there were still Soviet troops stationed across Eastern Europe.  East Germany left the pact in 1990 following the reunification of Germany.

It's fitting that the Warsaw Pact was formally ended, in Prague, on 1 July 1991 by Czechoslovak President Václav Havel

Over the next 20+ years former Warsaw Pact countries ended up joining NATO.  Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined in 1999.  Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania joined in 2004, along with the former Soviet Baltic states Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.  Albania joined in 2009.  

NATO just celebrated its 70th anniversary and continues to expand.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A Few Language Blunders

So after almost 10 years here in Czechland I've had my share of misadventures.  Some are due to using the wrong word, some are the result of bad pronunciation, and some of the most tragic involve cursing.  I've had multiple requests over the years to write about them so here are some of the most memorable ones.

  • Fakt jo isn't cursing.  In Czech it just means "oh really?"  But when native English speakers hear a strong Czech or Slovak accent it sounds like "fuck you".  This can lead to misunderstandings. 
  • I once gave my housekeeper a bottle of champagne and said Strašný nový rok when I should have said Šťastný nový rok because I ended up wishing her a "terrible new year" instead of a happy one. 
  • I've heard English speakers say "yeah, but..." which to Czech ears sounds like jebat (to fuck).
  • In Polish, šukat means "to search" or "to look for" but in Czech it means "to fuck".  There are countless stories of Polish people in the shop saying šukám na thinking it means "I'm looking for" but actually saying "I'm fucking".
  • Be careful when asking someone if they want to smoke.  The verb kouřit means "to smoke" but it also means "to give a blow job".
  • Dívka means "girl".  Make sure your pronunciation is spot on because děvka means "slut".
  • I have a friend named Štěpánka.  The short version of her name is Štěpka which is the English equivalent of Stephie.  I felt really bad when I mispronounced it at Štětka which means "slut".
  • One of my mates was messing with me one day and I tried to say polib mi prdel meaning "kiss my ass".  Unfortunately I said Bolí mi prdel which means "my ass hurts".  
  • Another time I tried to tell someone drž hubu which means "shut up".  However, what I ended up saying was drž píču which is the equivalent of "shut your cunt".
I'm from Atlanta.  The peach state.  So if something is good we say "it's peachy".  In my first couple of weeks on the job someone asked me how everything was going and I replied with "everything's peachy".  I had no idea why several people fell out of their chairs laughing.  Eventually I learned that what they understood me to have said was that "everything's píči" which is the equivalent of saying that "everything is cunty".

And the grand daddy of all language blunders is still that time I tried to say dělat opičky which means "making monkeys" as in "goofing off".  Instead I said dělat obřizky which is "to perform a circumcision".  

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Cursing in Czech

Before anyone reads any further...be warned.  This one will be a bit rude and vulgar.  One of the first things that people learn when picking up a foreign language are the curse words.  Well there is no shortage of them in Czech which is why this will come in multiple blog posts.

Vůl means "ox" but it is slang for "dude" or "man".  When addressing each other it is vole.  The phrase Ty vole! is a casual way to call your friend a moron.  Only used with people you know well.  Ty vole is also used as filler and I've heard teenagers use it in every other sentence.  It could also be used as an equivalent expression for "wow" or "oh damn".

Ty krávo (cow) = the female version of vole.  Like using "bitch" with a close friend.  But some girls will still use ty vole with each other.

Sakra! = Damn!

Kurva = slut, whore.
Kurva! is used as an interjection when you are surprised or annoyed.  It's harsher than sakra, basically the equivalent of saying "fuck", "damn", or "shit" when surprised.  Kurvo! means "you ho!"

Prdel = ass.  Do prdele! translates to "to the ass".  Used like kurva to say "fuck!".  Jdi do prdele translates to "go to the ass" but is the equivalent of "bugger off" or "fuck off".

Polib mi prdel is "kiss my ass".

Vyliž si! is "fuck off!.  It literally means "go lick your own ass".

Je to fakt v prdeli translates to "it really is in the ass".  The English equivalent is "it totally sucks".
Je mi to u prdele translates to "it is near the asshole to me" expresses indifference like "whatever" or "I don't care".

Píča = pussy, twat.  Do píče! translates to "into a twat" and is the equivalent of yelling "fuck" in English.  Jdi do píči! literally means "go into a pussy" but translates to "fuck off" or "go fuck yourself".  Píco means "You twat!"

Kunda = cunt.  This one is very vulgar in Czechland.

Ty hajzle! = You asshole!

Hovno = shit.  Je to hovno means "that's bullshit".

Šlapka = hooker
Čubka = bitch
Štětka Děvka = both translate to slut.  I think that děvka is harsher.

Šukat / Prcat / Jebat = to fuck.  Mrdat is a more vulgar version.

Péro (pen), pták (bird), čurák (cock) are all used for "dick" or "cock".
Kokote! would translate to "wanker" or "dickhead" in English.

Here's a short South Park clip from YouTube.  There aren't any subtitles but given the vocabulary above it should be pretty easy to get the jist of the scene.


I've got a few stories about some language blunders that I'll get around to writing about.  I'll also see about putting together another post of more Czech cursing.  I should write about Czech slang.  There's also some very Brno specific slang that I could share.  

Saturday, June 22, 2019

2019 Pride Business Forum

Yesterday was the 9th annual Pride Business Forum in Prague.  Like last year, this is the only platform in Czechland for open discussion of LGBT equality in the workplace across companies.  This year's theme was Equality in the Workplace: It's Easier Than You Think.


Team IBM
It was an awesome event with hundreds of participants including executives, HR, and diversity resource group members.  The perfect group of people to share best practices about creating inclusive workspaces for LGBT employees.

For the second year there were LGBT Friendly Employer awards. This year 1st place went to Vodafone, 2nd place went to Accenture and 3rd place went to ExxonMobil.

One of the workshops was about the difficulties people have transitioning in the Czech Republic.  I doubt that's an easy process anywhere.  About 50-60 people transition each year in ČR.

  1. A person is formally diagnosed with "transsexualism."  This requires approval from a physician and a sexologist.  
  2. Trans people are required to divorce their spouse or same-sex registered partner.
  3. Then come hormone treatment for a year.
  4. Next comes the "real life test," where people have to live day-to-day full-time in their new gender.
  5. Mandatory sterilisation.
  6. Czech grammar is rigid when it comes to names.  Trans people must change they name to a neutral version which means they can only pick from a few dozen possible names.  A neutral suffix is used with their surname.
  7. After all of the previous conditions have been completed, the patent has to appear before a board of doctors, psychologists, and lawyers who determine if the he or she is in good mental health and has fulfilled the requirements for surgery.
  8. Only after the surgery is complete can the patient apply for a legal gender change so that the gender on their ID matches their new gender.  
  9. The patent may then decide to keep their gender neutral name or select a new female or male name to match their new legal gender.

Apparently the process to change genders in Czechland is among the most difficult in the EU.  The policy of mandatory sterilisation surgery has been ruled in violation of the European Committee of Social Rights.  So the policy violates European law but none the less it is still required.

Yesterday's workshop was very educational.  It gave me an appreciation for just how difficult it is for a trans person to go through his or her transition.  Plus several things that can be an issue for trans people in the workplace.  For example, HR may not be able to check employee references of a candidate because a former employer may know the candidate only by a previous gender and not the new one.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Taiwan

Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (中華民國), is an island state in East Asia.  It is the biggest state, and the largest economy, not recognised as a country by the UN.  Taiwan is south-east of China, south-west of Japan, and north of the Philippines.
The island is about the size of Maryland and Rhode Island combined.  Taiwan is home to more than 23,5 million people.  Taipei is the capital and its largest city.

Indigenous people settled the island about 6.000 years ago.  In 1542, Portuguese sailors passed by the island.  They never stopped by noted it on their maps as Ilha Formosa, ("beautiful island"), and up to the early 20th century many Europeans refereed to it as Formosa.

In 1683 the island was annexed by the Qing dynasty until 1895 when it was ceded to Japan.  Taiwan was a Japanese island for 50 years until the end of WWII in 1945 when it was then given to the Republic of China (which overthrew the Qing dynasty in 1911.

There was a civil war in China between the Nationalists and the Communists that was interrupted by WWII.  It continued after the war until the Communists took the mainland in 1949 and two million Nationalists fled to Taiwan.  Beijing declared itself the capital of the People's Republic of China and Taipei became the temporary capital of the Republic of China.  Both insisting to be the one and only true China.

©Test Tube News

©ABC News

The Nationalist Kuomintang government declared martial law in 1949 and it remained in place until 1987.  This time is referred to as the "White Terror" when 140.000 people were arrested, tortured, and/or killed for being perceived as either anti-nationalist or pro-communist.  Since then Taiwan has moved from a single-party military dictatorship to a multi-party democracy with a semi-presidential system.  In 2016 Tsai Ing-wen became the first female president.

In 1971, the UN recognised the PRC as China and Taiwan lost its seat.  Taiwan has official diplomatic relations with only 14 of the 193 UN countries, plus the Holy Sea.  These countries are Eswatini, Belize, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Nauru, Palau, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands.  Not exactly the most powerful countries.  That's because the PRC claims Taiwan as part of China and it refuses to have diplomatic relations with countries that recognise Taiwan.

So Taiwan has to maintain unofficial relations via Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Offices which function as de facto embassies and consulates.  In most international organisations like the World Health Organization, where China participates, Taiwan ends up being called Chinese Taipei.
Chinese Taipei, 中華台北is the name the country competes under at the Olympics.

Mandarin Chinese is the official language.  However, the traditional Chinese charters are used whereas China uses the simplified characters.  Meaning that someone from Beijing and someone from Taipei could speak with each other but would have problems reading a letter from each other.

Taiwan has an industrialised economy and is the 21st largest in the world.  The New Taiwan Dollar, NT$, is the official currency.


On 24 May 2019, same-sex marriage became legal.  This makes Taiwan the first country in Asia to recognise gay marriage.

The biggest problem Taiwan has is China's claim on the island.  I can understand that both sides can't continue to claim to be the sole legitimate China.  In my humble opinion enough time has gone by that the PRC is China and Taiwan is Taiwan.  It seems odd to me that China lays claim to the island when it had only been a part of mainland China from 1945 to 1949.  Here's a video I found out on YouTube about how powerful Taiwan is.

©Test Tube News

Czechland has unofficial relations with Taiwan.  Zdeněk Hřib is the mayor of Prague who, when he was studying to become a doctor, did his medical training internship in Taiwan.  He doesn't always get along with Miloš Zeman, the Czech President, who is a big supporter of China.

Update: In October Prague ended its sister city agreement with Beijing over a dispute.  On 12 December 2019, Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib signed a new sister city agreement with Taipei. 

New ID Badge

I'm quickly approaching my 10 year Euroland adventure anniversary.  How in the hell has it been almost 10 years?!?!  When I came over I committed to stay for two years.  Possibly a third year if I really liked it.

2009 ID
Now it's almost a decade later and I'm still here.  Things just have a way of working themselves out and let's face it...I really to love it here.  

2019 ID
As long as I can pass my language exam next year then I'll apply for Czech citizenship.  

Our ID badges at work have a ten year limit so I had to swap out my old badge for a new one.  At least I like the photo better on my new badge.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

2019 EuroPride

EuroPride is a pan-European gay pride that is hosted each year in a different European city.  The only time EuroPride isn't held is when a European city hosts WorldPride then that counts as the year's EuroPride.

This year Vienna hosted the 26th EuroPride event - a two week long event of parties, sporting events, artistic, cultural, and human rights events.  Yesterday was the parade.

I committed to walk in the parade with other IBMers.  Originally I had planned to go down to Vienna on Friday night and come back on Sunday.  Basically make a whole weekend of it.  But I've been so busy lately that I decided to just go down for the parade on Saturday and come back afterwards.

I was supposed to meet up with everyone in Vienna at 11:30 as the parade would begin at noon.  I missed my train from Brno.  Long story.  So I got a ticket to Břeclav where I would change trains and head to Vienna.  Well my Břeclav train was delayed so I missed the connection in Břeclav.  So I ended up catching a train to Bratislava where I would have a 5-minute window to catch the next train to Vienna.

Vienna subways "We Ride With Pride"
My train to Bratislava was a bit delayed but I managed to make the connection.  Whew!  Then I needed to hit an ATM to get some euros and catch the subway to the parade meeting space.  I had the parade route map so I figured I would just catch up with the group.

I ended up meeting up with the IBM group at 1 pm.  The parade had started late and because there were at least 100 groups marching the IBM group had not even crossed the starting point yet.  So in the end I still made it "on time".  As stressful as all of the train hopping was I'm still glad it happened.  It was 36℃ (97℉) and had I been standing place in the heat for 1,5 hours just waiting for the thing to start then I would have been annoyed as hell.

The parade was great with around 500,000 present.  We had IBMers from Austria, Czechland, Slovakia, Romania, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, and Denmark.  Given the heat, the 5 km (3,2 mile) route on the Ringstraße seemed way, way longer.

Overall it was a really good day, despite the heat.  This was my first EuroPride and my first pride event this year.  I'm also signed up to join the IBM groups this year at Bratislava Pride and Prague Pride.

Friday, June 14, 2019

2018 Global Peace Index

The 2018 Global Peace Index was just released.  Czechland continues to be one of the most peaceful countries to live it.
Even though it slipped a few spots from last year, Czech Republic is the tenth most peaceful country in the world.  The sixth most peaceful in Europe.

Europe continues to be the world's most peaceful region as it has every year this index has been released.  The USA dropped seven spots to place 128th (out of 163 countries).

For the sixth year in a row, Syria is the world's least peaceful country.  Followed by Afghanistan, South Sudan, Iraq, and Somalia.

The Top 10 countries are:
1.  Iceland
2.  New Zealand
3.  Portugal
4.  Austria
5.  Denmark
6.  Canada
7.  Singapore
8.  Slovenia
9.  Japan
10. Czech Republic

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

€100 & €200 Banknotes

New on the left, old on the right.
The last of the new Europa series of Euro banknotes has been released.  In 2013, the new fiver was released followed later by the new tenner, twenty, and fifty.

On 28 May the new €100 and €200 banknotes both went in to circulation.  This is the first time that two different banknotes from this series have been released at one time.

The €100 banknote is the third most widely circulated denomination after the €50 and the €20.  I'm not a fan of the €100 because it can be a pain in the arse when you want to make a small purchase and the seller bitches about having to make change.



The €200 banknote is pretty rare.  At least in my opinion.  I've lived in Europe going on 10 years now and I think I've maybe come across it two or three times.  It would be an even bigger hassle to break than the €100 banknote.

Both the new €100 and €200 banknotes have the Cyrillic "EBPO" added to the Latin "EURO" and Greek "ΕΥΡΩ".  There are watermarks, holograms, invisible ink and microprinting for security.  This completes the new Europa series as a there won't be a new €500 banknote.

Last month the central banks stopped producing the €500 note but it will remain legal tender.  The €500 banknote is one of the world's highest-value banknotes in circulation.  This is one reason that some had called for the €500 to be withdrawn.  Since you can have a large value of money in a small amount of banknotes, it could be go-to currency for money laundering, drug trafficking, and tax evasion.

Here's a YouTube video about the security features of the new banknotes.

©European Central Bank

Monday, June 10, 2019

Gram's 100th

1939
My grandmother would have been 100 years old today.  She passed away in 2011 and I still miss talking to her every Sunday.

At least I know that she keeps watching over me on all of my travel adventures.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Student Presentation

I often get involved with the IBM Smarter University programme at work.  Sometimes it's working with student interns, sometimes it's mentoring sessions, and sometimes I'll give presentations at the Brno University of Technology or at Masaryk University.


Well today was something a bit different.  Today I did a presentation about Global Business Communications to bachelor degree students from Hong Kong and Pennsylvania State University.  I think that the American students were a bit surprised to find that the "Czech presenter" was another American.